Lassen National Park, California mar 2012

This is a long overdue post.  It happened sometime in the middle of March and this is really one tough one to blog.  Well, firstly it was a long trip and secondly, I covered quite a number of places and thirdly, this wasn’t exactly a lone trip, so I was a bit hesitant about penning this.  But as usual, I had lots of fun  and this would really help me keep all the wonderful memories of this trip.

Charlie picked me up from the airport and it was cold, didn’t feel a bit like spring.  I was slightly more prepared this time as we had planned a trip to Lassen to take up an avalanche course.  I admit I agreed partly because I knew he wanted to do this and I kind of wanted to do this together with him.  Well, who knows, I might end up climbing some snowy mountain one day and I would put all my new found knowledge to good use.

I had a day to rest before we set off for the park the next day.  We went to a little house party where I met a group of his friends who first introduced him to hiking.  They were nice folks and we had great food and games on the xbox.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself, pouncing around in front of the TV playing interactive games.   Hey, I think I didn’t do badly for a first timer.  The rafting game was insanely addictive and fun.

Needless to say, I slept well, so well it was almost unbelievable.  I was tired and the beers helped, i guess.

An early start as I did some packing for our upcoming trip.  Hope I take the cold well this time.  I felt a tad guilty as Charlie had done most of the packing and I was still pretty much in a dazed.  I like to think that I’m suffering from major jet lag, so a little excuse for being just that little bit of a bum. :p

It was a long drive and I was in and out of my sleep most of the time.  We stopped by to grab some food along the way and it was amazing to be in the outback where everything seem so huge, fresh and  juicy.  The fruits, the veggies … … Not really into snacking but the nuts and dried fruits we had in the car was certainly very tempting.

I watched the landscape before my eyes changed as we drove to higher grounds.  From towns to vast grasslands and from the greens to the whites.  It was hard to believe it was actually still snowing and the roads were covered in snow and ice.  Been a while since I last saw the snow capped houses and cars and in the far background, snow capped mountains.  That’s exactly where we were heading.

Finally we arrived.  The little cabin where we would be staying for the next 3 days.  To my utter dismay, it was not just cold, it was literally freezing cold.  I hope I survive this.

Lassen National Park, California
and we arrived… the little cabin

We were introduced to our instructor, Richard and our classmates for the next 3 days.  Anthony had brought along his little doggie and to a certain extent, I was missing Pittsi just a little.  But I know she would not survived the cold, my little doggie who needs to sleep under the covers even back in Singapore.

Lassen National Park, California
icicles along the roof edge… freezing cold

It had been a long day of driving and the guys were all tired.  Well, me too but mine was mainly jet lag.  We were still missing one guy who would be joining us the following morning.  This would be the man whose name I am not going to remember but he was the sweetest during my three freezing days up in lassen.

The next morning, it was so difficult to crawl out of bed.  The alarm went off and I was thoroughly unwilling to crawl out from under my covers.  Outside I could hear the guys working the kitchen, preparing breakfast.  I was lucky to have Charlie preparing breakfast for me so I could sleep in just that little more.

Lesson started proper that morning and I must say I was totally unprepared for the sit in classroom kind of lesson ahead.  I was just glad I wasn’t the only one dozing off half the time.  Having been a teacher myself, I felt really sorry and apologetic towards Richard.  He was doing a great job and giving us the best guidance ever.  I just couldn’t hold up my eyelids.  Well, Richard was half expecting me to be totally not into the whole lesson of this.  We had a mountaineer, a back country skier and a snowboarder and of course, not forgetting the Singapore girl, who probably see ice mainly in her fridge.  I really do not blame Richard for doubting my purpose in class.  But hey, I was determined to get as much as I could out of this.  Liked I said, I really had no idea when my I would be climbing my next snow-capped mountain to put lessons here to good use.

Finally, in the afternoon we had a chance to be out in the field.  That was an almost ‘life-changing’ moment.  I guessed we all needed a bit of fresh air to stay really awake.  We did some lost and found scenario settings and learnt how to use the beacon.  This was a lot of excellent information and fun for me as I had really no knowledge of such stuff.  The night, however,  was long and grueling with a night of theory lesson.

Lassen National Park, California
a crisp white sheet that is almost hypnotizing

The 2nd day of class was fun.  We headed outdoors to get some understanding of the snow pack that we had been talking about in ‘class’.  Now I think I have a much better idea of what the whole class was about.  I was excited too as this was going to be my first snow-shoeing experience.  After some clumsy moments I finally got the hang of it, walking with my legs wide apart so I wouldn’t end up tripping all over myself.

Lassen National Park, California
my first attempt 🙂

And that afternoon, in the freezing cold, we dug.  A pit so deep we were standing right in it.  That was so cool.  This was the first time i was seeing the snow layers and it was liked a layered cake.  Everything we spoke about in class came right to life before our very eyes and suddenly, everything became clear.  We poked the layers of ice with a stick to understand how compact it was and we looked out for possible sliding layers that could trigger off an avalanche.  We were also cutting blocks of snow right out from the layered wall we created.  It was an amazing experience.

Lassen National Park, California
and we dug with all our might

And for the final test, the guys did the jump and as seen from their faces, I guessed it was hard not to see the amount of fun they were having.  I was just happy to get a snap shot of this very moment.

Lassen National Park, California
and it caved in ….

The day had been great and I almost forgot how cold I was.  That night we had to decide on our itinerary for our last day.  Our tall back country skier had noticed how underdressed and how unprepared I was for the snow trip.  I was almost embarrassed when it became an issue to improve my comfort level in the cold.  And with everyone knowing my birthday was coming up, I was really becoming a little awkward with the attention I was getting.

The next morning, the guys worked their best to solve my problems.  I was using Richard’s fleece pants to keep warm and the guys innovated with ziploc bag to keep my feet dry and hopefully, a bit warmer.  I felt touched.  We had some fun in the snow, doing a lost and found scenario again and running through what we had learnt the last few days.

We were all leaving that afternoon and it was kind of sad goodbyes for everyone.  After all we did spend some enjoyable time together.  This was when I had a nice little surprise.  A birthday ‘cake’ that was so well thought of.

Lassen National Park, California
a very special birthday ‘cake’

Thank you, guys for the wonderful birthday memories. 🙂

And we moved on, heading for our next stop, Yosemite National Park.